Why write a PowerPoint presentation?

A PowerPoint presentation is similar to a poster presentation, only the information is on computer slides rather than actual posters. They are usually used to accompany an oral presentation; they should enhance the oral presentation instead of serving as speaking notes. You can incorporate audio and visual media. They are often used to share information with a large group, such as at a professional conference, classroom presentations, and meetings.

What should be included in the PowerPoint slides?

There are three main elements to a PowerPoint presentation:

  • Text – allows you to reinforce your main points and keep key terms and concepts in the readers’ minds. Text should almost never appear in blocks, but it should be organized into lists of single words or short statements that are easy to grasp. Text could include definitions, key points, captions, or essential facts.
  • Images – illustrate or highlight your main point. Some slides may only require an image with a caption to provide a visual for whatever you are presenting orally.
  • Graphs or Tables – present complicated information or numerical figures in a clear and easily digestible manner.

Note: As with any type of writing, consider your audience, purpose (persuasive, informative, etc), and occasion (classroom presentation, professional conference, business meeting, etc). When Writing a PowerPoint presentation, do:

  • Choose a single background for the entire presentation.
  • Use simple, clean fonts.
  • Use a font size that can be seen from the back of the room.
  • Write in bulleted format and use consistent phrase structure in lists.
  • Provide essential information only. Use key words to guide the reader/listener through the presentation.
  • Use direct, concise language. Keep text to a minimum.
  • Provide definitions when necessary.
  • Use white space to set off text and/or visual components.
  • Make sure each slide logically leads to the next.
  • Use a heading for each slide.

Don’t:

  • Clutter the slide with graphics.
  • Use complicated fonts.
  • Add superfluous information.
  • Put down every word you are going to say.
  • Use images if they will distract.
  • Use hard to read color combinations, like black on blue. Try to use high contrast combinations.

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1. Research For Your Presentation

Step 1. Develop Your PowerPoint Presentation’s ‘Thesis’

Right now, before you get any further in the process, write out what your topic is in one sentence. Think of it as a mini thesis for your presentation.

To be effective, your single sentence “thesis” must be specific, relevant, and debatable. It’s an argument that you’ll spend the rest of your presentation proving.

For example, you may start with a statement like, “It’s good for photographers to be aware of their surroundings.” Getting a little more specific may look like, “As a street photographer it’s important to be clear about your circumstances.”

And finally, getting as specific and clear as possible might look like this “mini-thesis” from one of our photography tutorials:

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Few things are more important as a street photographer than being clear on the context, or circumstances, in which you are photographing. 

Step 2. Identify the Most Relevant Points

Now that you’ve written out your topic’s mini thesis, it’s time to get to the main points.

The simplest way to do this? Make a list. Jot down everything that comes to mind on your topic. Once you’ve done this, go back through the list and highlight (or circle or underline) the points that are most important.

Remember, one key factor of your thesis is debatability. Treat this like an argument that you’re trying to win. If you only had five to six main points to persuade a listener to agree with your opinion, which points would you choose?

Step 3. Write an Outline for a PowerPoint Presentation

In this section, we’ll focus on how to write an outline for a presentation. Remember that the outline for a PowerPoint presentation helps you decide and organise what to include. 

A PowerPoint presentation outline is simply a plan showing the presentation layout and the essential points you’ll explore. These you’ve already identified in the step above. Now, organise the points in a logical way, starting with your introduction. 

  1. The introduction is the place in the presentation process where you tell your audience what you’ll cover in your talk.
  2. Next, you write a topic sentence for each of the main points you’ve decided you want to cover.
  3. For each topic sentence or main point, you’ll now write two to three supporting ideas or arguments. 
  4. Your PowerPoint presentation outline needs a conclusion. The most effective conclusions end on as strong a note as the presentation began. Conclusions generally restate the key points you’ve made in your presentation and finish with a call to action, compelling story, or memorable quote. 

Now that you know how to write a PowerPoint presentation outline, let’s look at how to write a script for a presentation. 

2. Sit Down to Write

Step 1. Start Strong

Remember that mini-thesis we worked on? You’re about to be glad you did it.

Your introduction should consist of two things: your thesis and a summary of your outline. It’s important to find the right balance with how you approach this. You want to neatly skim over each of the main points you’ll cover, but without giving too much away too early.

Your introduction shouldn’t just be informative, it needs to be engaging, too. It’s your opportunity to convince your listeners that what you’ve got to say is interesting and worth their attention. It should grab their attention.

Step 2. End Strong

Your conclusion will look and sound a lot like your introduction. The only difference is that your introduction is to intrigue, and your conclusion is to call your listeners to action. 

Avoid watered down phrases as you wrap up your points. Don’t give hints or suggestions. Instead, use direct language and make impactful summary points. 

Focus on what you want your listeners to leave your presentation thinking about and taking action on.

Step 3. Create a Compelling Hook and Angle

Your goal with the first statement of your introduction is to hook your listeners. You want to say something that makes them want to keep listening.

Ways to hook audience:

  • Use a provocative statement.
  • Tell a brief story or anecdote.
  • Ask a rhetorical question.
  • Say something that shocks or surprises your audience.
  • Bring up a problem and share the solution.

This tutorial on how to make a good persuasive presentation has many helpful tips on crafting a compelling hook: 

Step 4. Turn Your Main Points Into Mini Hooks

Think of each main point as a mini hook. A point is an opportunity to draw your audience in. Take advantage of this. Every main point you make should be a memorable one-liner. And when it comes to the delivery of each point, remember to speak clearly, state slowly, and pause where appropriate for effect.

3. Get Your Presentation Design Right

The writing process for PowerPoint, isn’t produced in isolation. It’s one of many contributing factors that need to be planned in partnership to craft an effective presentation. Design is just as important. 

Nothing will distract your audience more than a poorly designed PowerPoint presentation. Even if you’ve rehearsed thirty times, even if you’ve properly emphasised your main points, even if you’ve got the most engaging hook, it won’t move an audience without a clear design strategy that visually pulls your presentation together. Here are a few critical design steps to take:

Step 1. Choose an Engaging PPT Template Design

Your slides need to be up-to-date and relevant. Have you ever seen a presentation that used a template that looks like it’s outdated or overused? So, has your audience. Instead, download one of the many fresh modern PowerPoint templatesthe free themes available

Step 2. Work With Relevant Presentation Graphics

Photos and graphics are a great way to make a presentation more engaging. If they’re chosen well. But they can also be distracting.

Graphs are more likely to cause your audience to focus on the screen instead of on what you’re saying. If you decide to use a graph or infographic to illustrate a point, choose one that’s simple to read.

Because photos and illustrations can be distracting, use them when it adds to the understanding of your point. When you use graphic assets, make sure they’re relevant, in a current style, and are high-quality.

Learn how to work with images effectively. Find out which templates have the best graphic slide options (such as simple graphs, photo layouts, and usable infographics) in these articles.

Step 3. Keep It Consistent

One big problem with PowerPoint presentations occurs when you add content. If you’re not careful, you may end up with a PowerPoint format that looks nothing like the original template and more like a patchwork quilt. This is especially true if you add slides from other presentations into the one you’re working on.   

Color schemes from other documents, misaligned text, varying fonts and more are some of the problems that can afflict your presentation, especially when it’s being built collaboratively.

Notice how the slide above is a departure from the colors and fonts used in the rest of the presentation. It looks and feels out of place.

It’s important that you use the Master Slide effectively to keep formatting consistent. Keep an eye on the overall feel and look of your presentation as well as the formatting details to create a presentation that’s consistent and feels like a cohesive whole.

Step 4. Format Your Slide Text for Readability

Your text formatting should be purposeful and visually consistent.

Your main points should act as headlines to a slide and should be a different size (or even font) then your body text. The fonts and sizes for each should remain the same throughout all your slides. 

Also, remember that when it comes to what’s included on your PowerPoint presentation slides, less is always more. If you add too much, it can quickly clutter your slide, and confuse your points. You want your presentation slides to read clearly.

The beauty of PowerPoint though is that it offers you all the tools you need to format your slide easily and consistently.

A presentation is about you and what you’ve got to say. Your slides are merely the back-up dancers. For example, look at the slide below from the Clammos PowerPoint template. See how it maintains readability with larger font sizes and proper text formatting:

Step 5. Keep It Simple

We often have so much we want to share in a presentation, that the temptation is to keep adding text. But one of the most important things to remember when designing your slides is to keep things simple. 

The is a case where less is more effective. A cluttered slide is distracting and hard for audiences to digest. They spend more time trying to figure out what to focus on: reading the slide or paying attention to the presenter?  

Conversely, simple, visually appealing slides engage your audience while keeping them on each of your main points your PowerPoint presentation regardless of any disability.

12 Thoughts to “Writing an effective academic PowerPoint Presentation”

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